Retired astronaut critical of Glenn Musgrave says senator 'is not giving it all he's got'

October 03, 1998|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Story Musgrave doesn't mind that he will lose the distinction of being the oldest person to fly a space mission when John Glenn takes off with the shuttle Discovery later this month.

But what rankles him is the 77-year-old senator's approach to the cause.

"I am bothered by the fact that Senator Glenn is not giving it all he's got, that he's taking a part-time approach to it," said Musgrave. "It should've been put off until he was done with his Senate duties."

Musgrave retired last year after a 30-year career as an astronaut and six shuttle flights, including his last in 1996 aboard Columbia, when he was 61.

"My record is: I cared about space enough to do it for 30 years," Musgrave said. "The important thing is I cared about space enough to stay with it. People need to look at it like that. I did not leave for greener pastures, then come back as a passenger."

Through his NASA career, Musgrave worked on Skylab, helped develop spacesuits and life-support systems, and led a mission in 1993 to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. He left NASA last year after he was told he would no longer be assigned to space flights.

He now provides "creativity, brains, ideas, concepts" for companies such as CNN and Disney. Glenn, who in 1962 became the first American to orbit Earth, left NASA in 1965 and has served as a U.S. senator from Ohio since 1975.

Musgrave says Glenn's mission is "the right thing to do" because of the history involved and because Musgrave thinks it's important to get a variety of perspectives about space travel.

"But we need to be honest about it," Musgrave said. "We are flying a legislative passenger, as we have in the past. It's John Glenn. Marvelous. But it is a legislative passenger."

Glenn will do fine, Musgrave predicted, "just like a passenger on an airplane."

Would Musgrave like to go back into space? "It's not a relevant question," he said. "You get dealt a hand. Part of the hand I got dealt was that NASA said, 'We're not flying you any more.' I elected to accept what they said."

Pub Date: 10/03/98

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